Judge Tosses Moroun Challenge to Howe Bridge
In the latest ruling against Ambassador Bridge owner Manuel “Matty” Moroun, Wayne County Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert Colombo Jr. dismissed Moroun’s attempts to block the seizure of land he owns—a few parcels of the remaining 636 needed to start building the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
The Michigan Department of Transportation has been spending time acquiring land from the state’s Delray district to go toward the project. A number of Moroun companies own 20 parcels of the 636 needed.
Gordie Howe History
In 2012, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder worked out a deal with Canada to construct a new bridge that would provide an additional crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, a project that has since become known as the Gordie Howe International Bridge.
Moroun's privately owned Ambassador Bridge, the only bridge between the two cities, is currently the busiest crossing between Canada and the U.S. in terms of trade volume, and the new bridge would be built just miles away from the Ambassador. Moroun has spent years fighting the Howe plan, attempting to make a case that the international deal is null and void because it did not involve the state legislature's approval.
Moroun has brought several suits in the past, all shot down by the courts. In a ruling in October 2017, Colombo declared the deal to be legal.
In May, Moroun lost yet another lawsuit to try to stop construction of the Gordie Howe. In June, Moroun sought through an advertisement to persuade President Donald J. Trump into withdrawing the permit needed to build the international span. In July, joint venture Bridging North America was chosen to design, build and operate the endeavor over the course of a 30-year agreement with the Canadian government.
According to the Detroit Free Press, while Colombo’s dismissal does not end the case, MDOT may be able to move forward with obtaining the remaining parcels of land. What MDOT would pay for the property would be determined later. The judge’s ruling has also canceled a trial that was set to take place in mid-September.
Andy Doctoroff, a lawyer working for Snyder to oversee Michigan's involvement in the project, noted that the transportation agency would soon have the land needed for the Detroit segment. Ambassador Bridge president Dan Stamper said that the judge’s dismissal would be appealed, noting that his company believed that it was unlawful for eminent domain to be used for a project that was started by a Canadian company.
"These decisions make it abundantly clear that MDOT will shortly obtain possession and control over all 636 parcels in the footprint," said Doctoroff.
Cost of land acquisition stands at $370 million; the transportation agency is being reimbursed for the purchases by Windsor-Detroit Bridge Authority, which in turn is backed by the government of Canada.
"These court rulings without benefit of a trial will be appealed in due time because of the glaring actions of MDOT without Michigan Constitution and legal protections of property rights afforded to all citizens," said Stamper.